The Moatlands complex can be accessed from the A4 near Theale by heading southwards along the Burghfield Road and then turning down Mill Road near Pingewood. Parking is available in the car park at the end of Mill Road, near Moatlands. Moatlands is probably best known for the huge numbers of Gull that roost here, Common, Little, Yellow-legged, Caspian, Mediterranean and Laughing Gull have all been seen amongst the more common Gull species. Common, Arctic & Black Tern are common passage migrants as are huge groups of Swallow & Martins as they stop to feed up before continuing their migration journey. Warblers & Nightingale inhabit the reeds and scrub during summer and Hobbies can often be seen hawking over and around the pits.
A circular walk is possible of the Moatlands complex and after parking at the car park at the bottom of Mill Lane a track leads south and then north-west alongside the M4. The track continues along the west side of Moatlands GP and a number of viewing points allow good views out across the pit. Following this track past the Sailing Club it is then possible to head east either along the Kennet & Avon Canal or along a path that continues around the Moatlands GP and leads towards Burghfield Mill GP. With Moatlands GP on your right and Burghfield Mill GP on your left the path continues between both pits and finally reaches the Moatlands Car Park Pit, from here you can head east to Mill Lane and back to the car park.
Moatlands Pit - SU670703 No2 on map
Burghfield Mill Pit - SU670707 No5 on map
The complex consists of a number of pits, best known for the Gull roost at Moatlands GP's and the number of wildfowl that winter here. The large areas of phragmites reedbed and scrub are home to Nightingale and Warblers during the breeding season and during migration Moatlands often offers the chance to see rarer Terns as they pass through. There's always the possibility of Red Kite and Buzzard drifting over the pit's and it's always worth keeping an eye out for passing Peregrine Falcon.
During Winter the pits can host a number of duck species, Wigeon, Gadwall, Shoveler and Pochard all overwinter here with the more common wildfowl. Goldeneye also winter here with the possibillty of Red-crested Pochard, Scaup and Goosander turning up from time to time.
On the 2nd of December 2005 a Laughing Gull was found at Green Park, this rare American Gull was a first record for Berkshire and continued to delight birders from all over the country as it stayed in the area until the end of March 2006. On the 4th of December the Laughing Gull was found in the Gull roost at Moatlands and remained faithfull to the area being seen at a number of locations in the east of the Theale complexes including Green Park, Smallmead Farm, Moatlands & Theale Main Pit and then finally at the home of Reading Football club, the Madejski Stadium.
Resident: Little Grebe, Great-crested Grebe, Cormorant, Grey Heron, Mute Swan, Canada Goose, Mallard, Tufted Duck, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Pheasant, Moorhen, Coot, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Kingfisher, Green & Great spotted Woodpecker, Grey & Pied Wagtail, Wren, Dunnock, Robin, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Goldcrest, Long-tailed, Blue & Great Tit, Jay, Magpie, Jackdaw, Rook, Crow, Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Reed Bunting.
Spring: Spring sees the arrival of many of the different Warbler species that spend the breeding season around many of the Theale pits, the reeds and scrub come alive as Blackcap, Common & Lesser Whitethroat, Chiffchaff, Willow, Garden, Sedge & Reed Warbler all start to arrive. Nightingale can be heard belting out their song as well as the odd calling Cuckoo. Waders start to pass through as do Common, Arctic & Black Tern, possible Little Gull. Large swarms of Swift, Swallow, House & Sand Martins converge over the pits during migration and Hobby can often be seen hawking overhead.
Summer: During summer the reedbeds are alive with activity, Warbler parents are busy feeding their young, Common Tern can be seen feeding over the pit depending on local breeding sucess, still a chance to see Arctic & Black Tern as the odd birds pass through, Hobby are now regular sightings around the Moatlands complex as they hunt on the wing. Common Sandpiper & Dunlin often turn up in small numbers.
Autumn: By the end of August Autumn passage is underway again. Common, Arctic & Black Tern can all be seen along with Little Gull as they travel south, Possible Osprey. Duck numbers increase late Autunm Possible Ring-necked Duck & Scaup.
Winter: Duck numbers increase with Pochard, Wigeon, Gadwall & Teal joining Mallard & Tufted Duck on the pits, there's always the chance of Goldeneye, Pintail, Goosander and possibly Scaup & Smew. Water Rail can be seen and heard around the edges of the reeds and there's always the possibility of seeing Little Egret. Winter Finches include Lesser Redpoll & Siskin and by now the Gull roost at Moatlands may well include Mediterranean, Yellow-legged & Caspian Gull.
Interesting sightings at the Moatland complex include:
Black-necked Grebe, Great White Egret, Garganey, Red-crested Pochard, Ring-necked Duck, Scaup, Common Scoter, Smew, Red-breasted Merganser, Honey Buzzard, Little Ringed Plover, Sanderling, Mediterranean Gull, Laughing Gull, Little Gull, Caspian Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Kittiwake, Arctic Tern, Black Tern, Short-eared Owl, Winchat, Wheatear, Cetti's Warbler, Grasshopper Warbler & Bearded Tit.
Sedge Warbler©Jerry O'Brien
Bearded Tit©Jerry O'Brien